LGBT organizations, transgender advocacy groups, and prominent transgender activists are calling on national news networks to improve their coverage of important transgender issues, including the disproportionate amount of violence targeted at trans women of color.
A recent Media Matters report found that national cable, broadcast, and Spanish-language news networks ignored the murders of seven transgender women of color in the United States in the first two months of 2015. Transgender news coverage often focused on sensationalized stories while excluding trans voices and ignoring the more substantive issues of violence and discrimination against transgender people.
In the wake of the report, LGBT organizations and transgender advocacy groups are calling on national news networks to improve their coverage.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Policy Advisor for the Racial and Economic Justice Initiative at the National Center for Transgender Equality:
Violence against transgender women is an undeniable crisis in this country. In the first few months of this year alone, eight transgender women have been killed while state legislative attacks gain traction nationwide. Major news networks have largely ignored these attacks including the deaths of transgender women. NCTE calls on these news networks to accurately, fairly, and respectfully report on these murders and to allow transgender women, especially those of color, to speak about the discrimination and violence in their communities. To get the story right on news in America, that news must include the stories of transgender people.
Bamby Salcedo, President of the TransLatin@ Coalition:
As the epidemic of violence and murders targeting transgender women and gender non-conforming people continue to take place throughout the nation, national news organizations remain silent on the issue. We need the media to elevate the voices of transgender women of color, to challenge the violence and discrimination directed at transgender people, and to commit to fairly and accurately reporting information about our community. In order to create a world without any violence, harassment, and discrimination, we need everyone to join us in raising awareness.
Lourdes Ashley Hunter, National Director of the Trans Women of Color Collective:
There is an epidemic of brutal violence against trans women of color that is inextricably linked to the structural oppression we face every day. In this country, it is completely legal to deny a trans women of color access to housing, employment, educational opportunities and healthcare. This legalized discrimination contributes to the socio-economic disenfranchisement of our community, which also puts us at risk for homelessness, poverty, heightened criminalization, and physical and state-sanctioned violence. In 2013, there were 14 reported murders of trans women of color. In 2014, the same year that our nation celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, 12 trans women of color were brutally murdered in a 6-month time span. And in the first two months of this year, 7 (reported) trans women of color have been brutally murdered. When media outlets do report on violence against trans women, they often carelessly and callously engage in violence by using "given names," mug shots or recklessly including alleged criminal history when reporting on victims. The lack of national outrage reinforces a narrative that our lives are disposable.
Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center:
There is a crisis of violence against transgender women of color, and it is irresponsible for outlets to ignore that reality. By failing to recognize these epidemic levels of violence or listen to the voices of those impacted by it, our news contributes to the very climate that makes this violence possible. It sends the message that transgender women of color do not matter.
Kylar Broadus, Transgender Civil Rights Project Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force:
Eight transgender women and gender non-conforming people have been murdered across the US this year alone and not a single national news media outlet has reported on these homicides. This epidemic of violence must end and we need everyone's help--from the classroom, to the newsroom, to the corridors of power. Everyone has a key role to play in creating a safe, just, and equitable society free from discrimination and persecution.
Nick Adams, Director of Communications and Special Projects at GLAAD:
The violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color, must not be ignored. The stories of transgender people who face staggering levels of violence, poverty, and employment discrimination need to be told, as well as the stories of resilience and advocacy work coming from within the trans community. By telling these stories, the media will educate lawmakers, social service providers, and everyday Americans about the urgent need for trans-inclusive legal protections, competent social services, and widespread acceptance.
Osman Ahmed, Research and Education Coordinator at the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs:
The homicides of transgender women, and specifically transgender women of color, is an ongoing epidemic that has reached unprecedented levels with the seven homicides of transgender women of color in the first two months of 2015 alone. In just these two months NCAVP has documented more than half of the 12 homicides that were reported in all of 2014. While coverage of individual homicides has somewhat increased recently, it is time for the media to start connecting the dots and talking about the breadth and complexity of this violence.
To read the full report, click here.
Major broadcast and cable news networks are failing in their coverage of the transgender community, prioritizing sensational depictions of transgender people while ignoring important transgender stories, including the recent murders of seven transgender women of color, according to a new Media Matters report.
Broadcast, cable, and national Spanish-language news networks struggled to appropriately report on stories related to the transgender community -- when they choose to discuss those stories at all. A Media Matters report tracking transgender coverage on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, Telemundo and Univision in the first two months of 2015 raises concerns over the types of transgender stories being told in news media and the extent to which transgender people are allowed to speak for themselves on national television.
Coverage of transgender stories on national news networks varies greatly. MSNBC and CNN, for example, devoted significant coverage to stories involving the trans community, while Fox News, ABC, and NBC largely avoided substantive discussions of transgender issues:
Of the cable and broadcast Sunday news shows, only MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry featured a discussion of trans issues:
When networks did discuss transgender stories, coverage was largely focused on the unusual circumstances of high-profile transgender individuals, rather than the shared experiences of the transgender community. Though CNN spent forty-six minutes discussing transgender issues, for example, over 80% coverage was centered on TV personality Bruce Jenner's transition.
MSNBC's transgender coverage, on the other hand, spotlighted more substantive issues, including the military's ban on transgender service members, Smith College's rejection of a transgender applicant, and shifting representations of trans people in the media:
While a few news hosts, including MSNBC's Melissa Harris Perry and CNN's Don Lemon, used these stories as opportunities to talk about broader issues affecting the transgender community, the norm was overwhelmingly in favor of focusing on the particularities of already sensationalized news events.
This kind of sensationalized focus on trans issues is both misleading and disempowering. In a March 2015 study of transgender representation in the media for the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, Jamie Colette Capuzza wrote:
[T]ransgender people are largely "symbolically annihilated" by the mainstream news industry. Such invisibility makes this population more vulnerable to the power of other types of media images. Consumers may encounter transgender people more often than in the past, but these images lay primarily within entertainment media; even within the news genre, transgender people are featured more often in entertainment, arts, sports, and lifestyle sections. Audiences learn that transgender people are sources of entertainment more than they learn that transgender people face consequential and newsworthy obstacles as a community. [emphasis added]
Cable, broadcast, and Spanish language news networks largely ignored an "epidemic of deadly violence" against the transgender community in the first two months of 2015, despite devoting coverage to various transgender stories. When networks discussed transgender issues, they often failed to include the voices of transgender individuals, especially transgender women of color.
MSNBC hosted a spokeswoman from a notorious anti-gay hate group twice in one day to discuss controversial "religious freedom" legislation, failing to identify her as an extremist who has opposed the decriminalization of gay sex.
On April 1, American Family Association (AFA) spokeswoman Sandy Rios appeared twice on MSNBC during segments discussing a number of controversial "religious freedom" laws being debated in state legislatures. The AFA has been labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its history of anti-gay extremism, including blaming gay men for the Holocaust and supporting the criminalization of homosexuality.
Rios herself is an anti-gay extremist who has denied that homophobia motivated Matthew Shepard's murder, opposed a Supreme Court decision decriminalizing gay sex, believes people can choose to "stop being gay," and has stated that being gay is "broken hearts, it's disease."
Rios appeared on NewsNation with Tamron Hall to defend Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), where she falsely claimed that RFRAs weren't intended to allow for anti-LGBT discrimination:
From the April 1 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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In sharp contrast with its intense scrutiny of Hillary Clinton's private email server, the media has largely remained mum on Senator Marco Rubio's (R-FL) own habit of deleting official emails sent from a private email account. MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out that the hosts of Fox News' The Five gave Rubio a free pass on his email history, while continuing to disparage Clinton's private server.
According to a statement by Clinton's lawyer, the former Secretary of State's email server was wiped clean after she turned over approximately 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that not only did Rubio correspond with reporters on a private email account while he served as a leader in the Florida House, but when the Orlando Sentinal requested those emails, Rubio's spokesperson said they had been deleted.
In a March 31 article for MSNBC.com's MaddowBlog, Benen pointed out that while co-hosting the March 30 edition of The Five, Rubio failed to answer a direct question about whether he would publicly disclose his own private emails, writing, "At this point, Dana Perino, the former press secretary in the Bush/Cheney White House, jumped in to criticize Clinton in more detail, and Rubio never responded to the question. Which is further evidence that the politics of emails is trickier than Republican would like."
Benen went on to describe how similar the two email stories actually are:
But in an unexpected twist, it was a question from a Fox News co-host that demonstrates how easy it is to remove "Clinton" out of that sentence and put in the name of several Republican presidential candidates, including "Rubio." Consider:
In Rubio's case, the senator concedes he did official work on his private account, but he insists the deleted private emails had nothing to do with his official duties. Perhaps the way to be certain is to pursue full disclosure - up to and including careful technology scrutiny of computer servers - just to make sure he didn't do anything wrong.
Why should Rubio be trusted to make decisions on his own about which of his emails should be deleted?
I suppose the obvious answer is that the Florida senator isn't accused of any official wrongdoing, so there's no need to review his communications. But - and this is key - Clinton isn't facing any serious allegations, either, Benghazi conspiracy theorists notwithstanding.
The media also ignored former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's email habits. In the wake of a Clinton feeding frenzy, the major networks paid minimal attention to the seven years it took for Bush to comply with a Florida statute requiring him to turn over private emails.
Media outlets have argued that Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) mirrors RFRAs passed in other states as well as the federal RFRA signed into law in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton. In fact, Indiana's RFRA is broader than other versions of the law, and experts say it could allow private businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers on the basis of religion.
From the March 30 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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The press has almost entirely ignored the revelation that after the "richest man in Wisconsin" made secret donations benefitting Republican Governor Scott Walker, his company received special tax credits for that same donor's company.
By contrast, the media have frequently invoked donations to the Clinton Foundation in their coverage of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, baselessly suggesting that those donations create conflicts of interest.
Yahoo News reported March 23 that John Menard Jr., the billionaire owner of a chain of hardware stores in the Midwest, donated over $1.5 million to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which "pledged to keep its donors secret." Walker helped generate large, undisclosed donations for the group, according to records unveiled as part of a criminal investigation into whether the interactions of such groups with Walker's campaign committee violated state campaign finance laws. The Club defended Walker in the 2012 recall election, where he prevailed.
Since then, Menard's company "has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs, according to state records." Walker appointees also scaled back enforcement actions by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, "a top Menard priority."
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow gave a detailed account of the story on her March 24 broadcast:
Yet the pay-to-play allegations swirling around Walker, a possible Republican presidential candidate, have been widely ignored by others in the media.
The story hasn't been covered on the three major broadcast networks, CNN, or Fox News, according to a search of Nexis and Media Matters' video archives. The Rachel Maddow Show appears to be MSNBC's only mention of the story. Besides a reprint of an Associated Press article noting a denial of wrongdoing from the Walker administration, the New York Times hasn't covered the story. And the only references from The Washington Post are in a post on the progressive Plum Line blog and the same AP story the Times reprinted.
By contrast, the media has repeatedly raised the specter of "ethical concerns" over donations to the Clinton Foundation by foreign governments and individuals, among others. They have persisted with this coverage despite the clear indications from Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state that the donations did not influence her politically and the reality that the donations went to a global charity, not a fund benefiting her election.
From the March 25 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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A broad coalition of 39 major Latino organizations has issued a letter to the heads of six major U.S. English-language broadcasters asking them to work towards better Hispanic guest inclusion on the Sunday morning political talk shows.
The letter, issued by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) and addressed to the heads of ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, expresses the group's "deep frustration regarding the continued lack of Hispanic voices" on their agenda-setting Sunday political programs and urges them to "take immediate action to increase Hispanic guest bookings and broaden the scope of issues that include their voices."
Hector Sanchez, NHLA chairman and executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, said in a statement that the lack of Hispanic inclusion on those programs "results in distorting the image of our community's contributions to the life of our nation." Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), added: "It is irresponsible to exclude the perspectives of 17 percent of the U.S. population from the airwaves."
Only seven percent of guests on English-language Sunday shows during the last eighteen weeks of 2014 were Latino, according to a Media Matters study. While the letter notes that this proves "an increase from the two percent representation found in a 2011 report by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts," these numbers remain significantly short of the 17 percent of Americans who identify as Hispanic.
In the letter, the NHLA encourages the network chiefs to take advantage of the "impressive list of Latino experts from across the country that specialize in issues ranging from education, health, immigration, public safety, the economy, civil rights, the media and beyond."
Cable news networks spent just 12 minutes covering the revelation that Jeb Bush waited seven years to comply with a Florida law requiring him to turn over his private email correspondence, while the same networks devoted hours to reports about Hillary Clinton's use of private email when she served as secretary of state.
From the March 11 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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From the March 11 edition of MSNBC's The Cycle:
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From the March 11 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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